Being Prepared for the Unexpected

I had planned to have a different post up here today. Thoughts about it had been running through my head on Thursday and Friday, and I was going to take my Friday night after the kids had gone to bed to type it up.

So much for best-laid plans.

As I was brushing my two-year-old’s teeth, I heard a thud and a cry come from the room of my four-year-old. Shoot — this was going to take more than a kiss and a Barbie bandage. After some coordinating to get things taken care of for my son, my daughter and I were off to Urgent Care.

(No worries — she got by with some surgical glue, a prescription for antibiotics, and earned two stickers for being so good for the doctor.)

This little mishap got me thinking about the importance of being prepared for the unexpected.

Job loss is oftentimes not expected. I know my husband and I were taken aback when he got the notice that he was being laid off last year. To keep yourself from being completely unprepared for that kind of event, here are four things that you can do to be a little more prepared:

1. Have your résumé up-to-date. Fortunately, when my husband’s layoff hit, it had been just over a year since he had completed his Associate’s degree and had done the requisite changes, so updating dates and accomplishments that had occurred during that time was fairly easy for him to do. In general, a good schedule for revising a résumé would be once a year or when you have a job change (whichever comes first).

2. Be sure to keep the connections in your network “fresh.” If you have people in your network who you have not talked with in a while, it will be harder to get reestablished with them. It’s not impossible, mind you, so they are definitely worth contacting. But you just can’t expect them to jump to help you immediately if you have been absent from their lives for an extended period of time.

Also, take care to develop a good give and take in your relationships in your network. If you are only contacting them when you need something, they may start to feel used after a time. Think about it — do you have someone in your life who one calls when they need a favor? Doesn’t it get old after a while? So you are not doing the same thing to others, see what you can do to help them out in their time of need, too!

3. Build an emergency fund. I know — this one is tough, especially if you are a new college grad and have student loans. But really, this is a difficult task for many regardless of the stage of life. There are car loans, mortgages, retirement funds, college funds for your kids… the list goes on and on. As much as there are competing reasons for your resources, an emergency fund is a good one to contribute to regularly.

Some experts say 3-6 months’ worth of savings is good, but with how long job searches have dragged on, I would say having savings for a year might be a better idea. Even if you can’t reach that amount, aspiring to do so will hopefully have you save more than if you would have set the bar lower.

4. Know who is in your support system. This can be a significant other, family members, friends, individuals at your church/other faith-based organization, a professional therapist. Processing the emotional side of job loss is important, too. Find people you count on to work through everything you are feeling. Not only will you feel better, but you will be that much more effective in doing all that needs to be done to find work.

What other tips do you have for preparing for an unexpected job loss?

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